The city of Pretoria can be likened to a blanket stretched thin, where previously
urban programs shift to the expanding periphery leaving gaps in the city fabric. It is
essential to investigate ways in which these urban “left overs” can be re-imagined
within the contemporary context. This complex urban condition is investigated
with the focus on conservation of abandoned buildings of heritage significance.
In South Africa, state funding cannot be relied upon for conservation of individual
buildings. Thus the conservation of leftover and abandoned heritage buildings
should happen not through singular museum projects but through the everyday
usefulness of the building.
The role of art and the artist has long been linked to the reuse of buildings which
have become difficult to inhabit in conventional ways. Thus the introduction of
cultural programs to derelict heritage sites and “left over” spaces is pertinent
to their reuse. One such site is the Capitol theatre in the Pretoria CBD. It is
undoubtedly a place of cultural richness and expression, having been a place
of daily gathering as well as formal entertainment throughout its history. It is a
natural point in which to reintroduce culture into an extended public realm at the
heart of the city.
Originally a space of introverted and exclusive cultural expression, curated cultural
artifacts (films and occasional shows) were displayed to a limited audience in
a highly internalised experience. However, it is proposed that this condition be
inverted through external display of the processes of cultural production on the
exterior of the theatre. The intention is to broaden the sphere of cultural influence
into the public realm of the city and simultaneously invite the existing communities
to engage with the building. Thus the focus shifts from internal event space to
external production space which becomes part of the public everyday experience.
Reviving the Capitol
The Capitol Theatre complex was never completed and no exterior facade was
ever design for the auditorium. This creates the opportunity for a new inhabitable
facade to be designed which fulfills the role of both a supportive and expressive
element. The new element incorporates spaces where people and processes of
cultural production are expressed externally while curated cultural artifacts and
events remain housed in the auditorium.
Ultimately the concept is one of support. The physical support of a failing structure
being the starting point which necessitates an intervention; the functional support
which allows the building to become useful again in a contemporary context with
new cultural meaning; and the social support of the everyday rituals which make
up the daily cultural experiences through the extension of the sphere of cultural
influence of the Capitol Theatre.
Dissertation MArch(Prof)--University of Pretoria, 2014